Nov 132003
Authors: Christiana Nelson

You can look at it like giving a two-year-old cocaine. Or opium.

Or codeine.

But, you can just call it Ritalin.

Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate, is a drug used to treat

individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit

Hyperactive Disorder and is one of the most widely prescribed drugs

in America.

Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance

along with drugs like cocaine, opium and codeine because it has the

potential to become addictive and to create dependence on the drug,

according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

It is also sold on the street as a form of speed.

Sounds like a great drug for my future co-workers to grow up


The problem does not rest with the ability for this drug to

work, as the National Resource Center of AD/HD states that Ritalin

works to pacify symptoms of 75 to 90 percent of children with ADD

and ADHD.

The problem rests in the dangerous misdiagnosis and over

diagnosis of behavioral disorders, thus leading to incredible

increases in addictive stimulant usage.

In the past decade, Ritalin production has increased by 700


The United States consumes more Ritalin than the rest of the

world combined, in correlation with the increasing numbers of

diagnosed cases of ADD/ADHD.

Debby Burfeind, author of “The Ritalin Debate” estimated that

the ADD diagnosis in the past decade has gone from under a million

cases to nearly five million cases.

Children are not changing drastically through the decades; the

American society is just aiming for a quick fix to behavioral


One in every 20 children will be taken to their doctor and will

be diagnosed with a behavioral disorder and then put on medication,

like Ritalin, to calm them down, according to a study released by

the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001.

Lacking energy and the ability to deal with extra energy in a

child is a poor excuse to sedate a child with medication.

“There are many things that can appear to be behavior disorders,

like not getting enough sleep and learning troubles,” said Dr.

Julie Brockway of the Fort Collins Youth Clinic. “You want to make

sure that you are diagnosing them correctly because you don’t want

to put kids on unnecessary medication: they don’t grow well, they

don’t eat well, they are labeled as having a problem and they could

be missing the diagnosis of something different.”

Misdiagnosis can be dangerous to a child physically and

emotionally and parents need to rule out look-alike problems before

their child is put on any medication.

Granted, there are children who do suffer from ADD/ADHD and need

help, in the form of counseling or even prescription medication,

but not all children who fidget deserve to be drugged up and

labeled with a behavior disorder.

Only medical professionals can conclude that a child has a

behavior disorder, but the method of diagnosis can present several


First, try to remember the last time your doctor had much time

to sit and chat or research your symptoms beyond the examination


If your doctor is like mine, it almost never happens.

Secondly, if the medical professional does have the time to look

at the problem the medical criterion for diagnosing a behavioral

disorder are vague and often misinterpreted.

For instance, some of the medical criteria for ADHD are that a

child “often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks

that require sustained mental effort such as schoolwork or

homework” and “often fidgets with hands or feet and squirms in

seat,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental

Disorders, Fourth Addition (DSM-IV).

Not only does the word “often” make you wonder how frequently a

child has to engage in these behaviors before they are labeled with

a behavioral disorder, but also the criterion are ridiculous.

I know plenty of college students, let alone children, who do

not enjoy homework or who fidget and click pens in class.

I believe that a major cause of behavioral disorder

over-diagnosis is due to broad criteria created by a society that

wishes for a one-size-fits-all prognosis to problems.

Whatever the case may be, parents and professionals alike need

to work to understand a child and discover if the behavior is truly

the result of a disorder.

When people are misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders it is a

serious issue because the medications used to treat the conditions

do have side effects.

Although it is prescribed to children as young as two years old,

Ritalin can cause confusion, depression, loss of appetite, rapid or

irregular heartbeat and sleep problems.

There are enough problems in the world that we do not need to be

introducing 5 percent of our nation’s children to medication with

dangerous side effects and possible addiction and dependence

problems just because they are energetic or mischievous.

So, give the 2-year-old a teddy bear and leave the Schedule II

controlled substance in the bottle.




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